Chelesa Fearce graduated at the top of her class, as her and her family dealt with being homeless.
Fearce, 23, is currently pursuing her MD–PhD degree at the Yale School of Medicine; a major step towards her goal of launching a career in psychiatry. Fearce’s journey to the prestigious Ivy League school was no easy feat. While attending Charles R. Drew High School in Riverdale, Georgia she and her family were homeless. She would often go without food and would use the stove lights at motels for her studying sessions. Despite living in those conditions, she earned a 4.5 grade point average and was named valedictorian of her class in 2013. Her academic accomplishments garnered her a full scholarship to Spelman College. After graduating from the historically Black college with a degree in biochemistry, she went on to work for a national health agency and started the next step in her academic journey at Yale last month.
Fearce says her experience with homelessness instilled values that she has taken with her throughout every stage of her life. “Homelessness taught me how to work hard, always persevere and never let anything get in my way,” she told the news outlet. “It really helped show my resilience when I applied for college and medical school.”
Fearce and her family have been dedicated to paying it forward and helping those in need. There was a scholarship named in her honor for homeless students determined to further their education. Her mother Reenita Shepherd has become the foster parent of four children and is currently serving as a caretaker for a former homeless shelter director.